A Letter to the Men I Know

White ribbon campaign

I really apologize for the way I’ve acted around you lately. Sometimes I feel like I must look like I’m drowning, looking for the nearest life raft to save me. Let’s start here first– that is not fair for me to do to you. You are not a white knight and I’ve never been a very good damsel, so let’s stop playing into those roles right now.

But some reason, I feel comfortable (or maybe it’s just necessary in my mind) to tell, you, my male friends (straight and gay) what has happened. Maybe if I can tell you I can feel completely comfortable, being completely uncomfortable around you.

For some reason I feel this dragging need to tell you about the guy who sexually harassed me on the bus, the guy at the house party who reminded me we were alone in his soundproof basement while backing me into a dark corner, the guy who deliberately elbowed me in the face when I used to work concerts and he was mad that I kept him from rushing the stage, the guy who tried to pin me down on a bed at a college party and threw my head into an acoustic guitar when I said “stop”, the boys in middle school who used to punch me in the chest because “no one would want to ACTUALLY touch you there”, and the father who would drunkenly rage in my face at four years old.

I’ve spent a lot of years being quiet about some of this and maybe that’s why it’s all spilling out of me now when we go to coffee, go to the bar, watch a movie, or why anytime you ask “how’s it going?” I have just lost the ability to lie and leave it at “fine”.

I’ve put you in a shitty position; I’m well aware of that. You feel the need to react in some way when I tell you about the men that have hit me, grabbed me and threatened me. You want to rant, buy me a drink, get fucked up, hug me, or laugh uncomfortably. You want to tell me that if you could, you’d knock them out. A few of you have avoided me; too scared to hear it, because you are so pained by the idea of girls and women being mistreated. I understand it, but for some reason that makes me feel like I’m the one who must have behaved improperly for speaking up.

I just want you to know I don’t blame you for whatever way you’ve reacted to this.

And sometimes, my wonderful male friends, you create art for a living or a passion. Sometimes you are well known for these things. And while I appreciate your well-intended, infuriated rants on social media, proclaiming that there is a twisted masculinity crisis in the world, things need to change and you refuse to give in to its continued outdated definition every time a horrible news story of a girl or woman being violated comes onto your radar, I often wonder how amazing these rants would be if they were seen elsewhere and weren’t rants. I wonder how many more people they’d reach and influence if they were sung, painted, or published.

That’s not to say I want you to take my voice and position as writer away from me, or try to steal my experience. That being said, it would be nice to see a few of you stand proudly next to me, and the other female artists I know and say in a large, scary way, in magazines, clubs, galleries you don’t normally show your work and say enough. I would love if you’d take a risk instead of preaching to the choir on your friends list.

Some of you lovely men I know have asked if there’s anything you can do, when I’ve told you how scared I am to walk alone at night anymore, ride the bus late ,or go to bars or parties at all. There are many things you could probably do (on a practical level—drive me home, call me a cab, accompany me to social events), but what I need these days changes from minute to minute. Sometimes I need someone to make me laugh, other times I need someone to show their outrage, other times I can’t bear to be in the same room with any of you, and yes, sometimes I do need a hug. I won’t blame you for being confused by my behavior from moment to moment—for feeling like you might say or do something wrong.

A safe bet from you, from all of you, is for you just to listen.

I’ll do the work I need to do, and you do it too. It’ll take awhile, but hopefully we’ll both get where we need to be with all of this.

All I really want from you men I know is for you to keep being the awesome examples of masculinity we so desperately need out there right now.

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